Often, I get very nostalgic about memories for few days when I travel from home. On a patient wait at the airport baggage claim on my way back to Sharjah from Kerala, I watched the conveyor belt rotate endlessly, carrying countless suitcases filled with the cherished items and memories of faraway homes, bags, packed homemade snacks, shoes, clothes, perfumes. An elderly couple from Kerala stood nearby, returning to their work life in Sharjah after a visit back home. I imagined the contents of their bags: his favorite mundu that he’s worn for decades, folded delicately alongside fragrant bags of cardamom tea from a Munnar trip. Her collection of gold bangles and jasmine hair oil passed down from her grandmother, wrapped protectively to withstand the long journey. Jars of homemade mango and wild jackfruit pickle, transported from her sister’s kitchen, jars of mango achaar wrapped protectively, reminding them of carefree childhood days playing hide-and-seek in jackfruit orchards. The aromatic coconut oil for their long, silver hair, conjuring images of mother braiding it lovingly each morning before school. His favorite tea leaves, recalling late nights on the veranda discussing life’s challenges and joys with his father. The taste of piping hot appams and vegetable stew, the sounds of temple bells and bicycle horns, the feel of fresh air from open paddy fields, the smell of fresh coriander powder in a mill. They chatted softly in Malayalam, no doubt reminiscing about their time back home. I pictured the memories their visit must have kindled – long, laughter-filled conversations on the back porch, the smell of beef fry and parottas at a late night thattukada.
Home is not a place, but the memories we carry in our hearts, feelings and nostalgia we carry within us. Regardless of where our travels take us, we bring pieces of home along through the flavors, sensations, people and stories that shaped our younger days. No matter how far we travel, home remains alive within us through them.